By: Randi Jones Hensley
The Campaign to End the Death Penalty (CEDP) stays afloat financially through our monthly sustainer program.
This program makes it easy for everyone to be a part of the fight to abolish the death penalty, no matter where you are or how limited your time is. Once a month, funds are automatically taken out of your account or charged to your credit card, and donated to the CEDP. These funds are used for publishing the New Abolitionist, organizing events, sending out mailings and sustaining the work at our national office.
To join this important program contact Lily Hughes at [email protected] org or visit our website at NoDeathPenaly.org and download the form to mail in. You can donate as little as $5 a month, or more if you are able.
Randi Jones Hensley talked with Delia Perez Meyer, whose brother, Louis Castro Perez, is an innocent man on death row in Texas. In addition to fighting tirelessly to see her brother freed, Delia has also fought alongside other family members for their loved ones and for abolition of the death penalty altogether. She is on the board of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.
How did you get involved in anti-death penalty work?
I got involved when my innocent brother went to death row in September of 1999 and it just catapulted me into this whole world of abolition.
Can you tell us a little about your brother and his case?
Louis was visiting his friend’s home on the weekend of September 10 of 1998. He had spent the whole day out with a friend, and when he got home that evening the three girls had been murdered or in the process of being murdered. When he walked in the door, he found Cynda on the floor. She had her arms still outstretched. When he went over to pick her up, she scratched him and that was the DNA under his nails that basically sent him to death row. He walked into the crime scene, probably interrupting the murderer who may have still been in the home.
You and your brother have a very special relationship. Can you tell us a little bit how you stay so close?
There are five children in our family. When this happened to Louis, it happened to all of us. I always tell people, if this was your little brother, you’d do the same. He is my little brother and I was put on earth to protect him. I know that he’s a big grown man, but he is in great need. I see him as frequently as I can, just to make sure he gets out of the cage walking from his cell to the visitation room; that he gets a decent meal; that he gets some friendship, love, and prayer. He is the sweetest man on this earth. And that’s all there is to it. I would do anything for him.
In addition to fighting to see your brother freed, you’ve fought for many other people on death row. Why is that so important to you?
They did become my family members and my penpals and people that I cared very much for. They are my brothers and sisters, too. At first, the innocence issue was huge for me because I know that my brother did not murder his friends and so I was trying to separate the ones who were possibly innocent from the ones that had committed those horrendous crimes. But after I got involved with some groups, I began to realize that it really doesn’t matter if they’re innocent or they’re not. I had not contemplated it before it happened to us, but now I think it’s archaic and unnecessary. We came to know about the errors—prosecutorial misconduct, eyewitness error, innocence, sleeping judges. Whatever the case was we began to recognize where the problems lie. It isn’t with us, it is within the system.
You are a board member of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty. Can you tell us why the CEDP is important to you?
I felt like the CEDP was my rock. It was the people who surrounded me from the very beginning of this ordeal and who really cared and showed the capacity for loving a family despite this horrific ordeal. I witnessed you all caring about so many other people. I witnessed the work that was being done for Kenneth Foster, Troy Davis, Kevin Cooper, and all of the others and saw that it was truly affecting these cases. There was action and a willingness to step over the line. It wasn’t always pretty, but always very genuine and very real. It was really important to me to become part of this incredible organization.
Why did you become a monthly sustainer?
I have an incredible friend of mine who wants to remain anonymous, but it was through him that I have been able to help others. Between the both of us, we decided we wanted to do whatever we could to help sustain this organization, to keep it viable, to keep it growing. It was really important to me because over the years I didn’t have the resources to go back and forth every year to Chicago for the annual convention, and other people provided for me to go. That’s where I met so many wonderful people and was able to share my brother’s story. It was therapeutic for me. Giving to the CEDP became something that is part of my life and I felt that I needed and wanted to do. I’m very happy about that decision.
You mentioned traveling to Chicago to travel for convention. What is the convention like?
The first couple of times I went up to Chicago, I was really truly amazed at the organization in itself. Even though it was a small organization, it was tight and it was very much focused on the death penalty, on human rights, on police brutality, on doing the right thing, and it just put me in touch with other like-minded people. It also supported the family members. When you’re in this situation, you can kind of feel alone and ostracized. Being with other families that are in the same situation seems to really alleviate some of the pain and the agony and the stress. You form camaraderie with these friends and we just became one big, happy family doing wonderful work and supporting so many different facets of it. There were many different things that I learned at convention that really changed my life and shaped the way I feel now politically, socially, and humanitarian-wise. It was a huge learning experience.
Now the convention is in Austin, Texas and coincides with the March to Stop Executions there. Can you tell us a bit about the March?
At the beginning for me, it was something I could do to help educate people and bring attention. It’s been smallish, around 300 people, but it’s been very powerful and has brought attention to the death penalty in Texas and beyond. It’s not just the idea of marching down the streets, but it’s the much bigger picture of fighting toward abolition.
The greatest thing about the March is that over the years through the Journey of Hope, I have met the exonorees and we’ve become very close. These guys spent many years on death row and could have gone on with their lives, but they have chosen to come back and to come out and fight alongside with us. It means the world to me to have them there.
The two year anniversary of Troy Davis’s murder just passed. What did that case mean to you?
I took the slogan “I am Troy Davis” very personally. I am Troy Davis. And so are you. I believe that Troy Davis, like Trayvon and so many others, is indicative of the times. There’s still racism. They are still lynching people, they’re just doing it differently now. Meeting Martina was a huge inspiration to me. I felt like God put us in that hotel room together for convention and we could feel each other’s pain and agony, but give each other the strength that we needed to get on.
I believe the fight they put up for Troy, it was an amazing feat. We are going to change the world, We are going to abolish the death penalty.
What are your thoughts about death sentences continuing to decline and more and more states abolishing the death penalty?
I would love to say that we’re really winning this thing and it’s going to stop tomorrow, but the reality is the wheels of justice turn slowly, and it may take awhile. But I think cases like my brother’s and Rodney Reed’s case, who are totally innocent, are going to be the impetus behind turning the page. I really do.
Anything else you would like to add?
Special thanks to you guys who have made Louis and I feel so loved. I know a lot of families are ashamed of what has happened to them. But you guys have made Louis and I feel so wonderful and happy and you’ve been so kind to us won loved. You all have showed so much support and love and that has kept us in a good place. This is probably the most difficult thing for a family can go through—they have been torturing him for 15 years. As a result of the CEDP and these other groups who have stood beside us all these years, it has made us stronger and it has made us who we are. We can stand proud and move forward. One of these days, my brother is going to walk out of that prison and he will be able to show his love and gratitude for what you all have done for us.
To learn more about Louis’s case, please visit www.nodeathpenalty.org/get-the-facts/justice-louis-castro-perez-test-all-dna